The Telegraph
Tuesday , October 16 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihar jumps the gun in sign of the times

Patna, Oct. 15: A missing teen whose rumoured death had sparked riots in Bihar’s Madhubani district surfaced in Delhi today with his girlfriend, whose family had been accused by local people of plotting his murder.

Prashant Jha, 17, and the girl, 16, were spotted in the capital’s Mehrauli locality on a day the Opposition enforced a Bihar bandh over the past three days’ wave of violence in Madhubani that left at least two people dead in police firing.

Sociologists cautioned against the rising trend of popular hysteria fuelled by hearsay and hyped on social networking sites, and that of “street justice”.

“Rampant corruption and price rise are twin factors that have led to an accumulation of deep-seated anger in the public mind. Whenever they get a chance to vent this anger, or are instigated by some people, it is manifested in Madhubani-like incidents,” sociologist Hetukar Jha said.

The violence began on Friday following district police’s refusal to hand over the headless body of a male which Prashant’s relatives claimed was that of the student, missing along with the girl since September 7.

The police had said two post-mortems had established the age of the dead male was at least 25 and offered to carry out a DNA test, but local people wouldn’t listen.

Rampaging mobs torched police vehicles, a police station and other government property, prompting the cops to fire, killing two.

According to Bihar director-general of police Abhayanand, the boy and the girl had eloped on September 7 and reached Muzaffarpur, from where they went to Jammu via Ranchi and on to Mehrauli.

There, a garments shop owner hailing from Bihar spotted them and identified the boy from a picture published in a vernacular daily. He informed the local police, who picked up the teen duo.

As the news was relayed to Bihar, Abhayanand spoke to the couple and concluded they were the missing boy and girl from Madhubani.

The development came hours after chief minister Nitish Kumar had blamed his administration for its “failure” to handle the situation arising out of the boy’s disappearance.

The government, already under pressure for rising crime, swiftly replaced three top officers: the inspector-general (Darbhanga zone) and Madhubani’s district magistrate and superintendent of police.

It set up a judicial inquiry into the police firing and recommended a CBI probe into the double disappearance. The missing girl’s father, a district government official, was transferred.

The Opposition, sniffing a chance to attack Nitish’s claim of “susashan (good governance)”, called a Bihar bandh today. Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan hit the streets, blocking highways and railway tracks.

Abhayanand said he had never encountered such a case in his police career.

Ant bhala to sab bhala (all’s well that ends well),” Nitish said.

The chief minister today tried to scotch another “rumour” — that his administration had banned the colour black at his meetings, associating it with protests.

“Let me speak suo motu on the rumours.... Black is beautiful. I am immensely fond of the black colour. I have never objected to anyone wearing black clothes at my meetings,” he said.

Nitish had faced protests from contractual teachers across his Adhikar Yatra rallies, prompting reports that the police were “harassing” anyone wearing black clothes or accessories — even those carrying black umbrellas — at these rallies.